Persimmon- Beyond Korean Barbecue

27 07 2009

In this city with so many places to eat, there is so much mediocre & overrated food. In fact, one of the reasons I started this blog is so that I would have my very own place to rant about the silly “it” places that lemmings wait on line for their turn to walk off the cliff of overpriced grub and indifferent service. However, there’s much more to be said for positivity and it’s great to come across a fantastic place, like Persimmon, that is as of yet, relatively undiscovered. Although the website bills it as “Neo-Korean Cuisine” there is none of that mismatched fusion stuff going on that can be so off-putting (Gyu-Gaku).

An alluring soft light . . .

An alluring soft light . . .

This place has been in my hood for a while but the fact that they only did a prix fixe menu for $37 put me off. Once you factor in alcohol & any extras you’re looking at a pretty penny. And times is rough. Word is bond, I swear to God. However, I noticed that they had recently started serving food ala carte. They feature the standards: bibimbap, K-miso stew (dwenjang jjigae), soft tofu stew (sundubu jjigae) and the like, which are so often not done justice to! When most people think Korean food they think barbecue. Which is awesome! I ain’t mad at no Korean barbecue. It’s just that the everyday food is so well-balanced and different from other cuisines that it’s a real treat. PLUS this place has one of my fave K-dishes on the menu: although it’s worth mentioning that the menu is seasonal and changes bi-weekly. Samgyetang is eaten in really hot months and consists of an entire Cornish hen stuffed with glutinous rice, ginseng and something I’ve heard described variously as a Chinese date and a jujube (guess they’re more than just filling-ripping movie candy!). Also included will be lots of scallions, possibly some chestnuts and  maybe Ginko berries (which contrary to the stank they produce when pulverized on sidewalks are quite tasty). The broth is very plain and it comes with a bowl of salt which you then administer yourself. Usually what people do is take scoop the stuffing out of the bird, take the bird out, pull the meat off & then put the meat back in. Then mix it all together. The rice thickens the soup and it’s a tasty and herbal hodge podge. I sometimes like to leave the chicken in whole & eat a bit at a time. It’s served seething in a stone pot. It looks like this.

I taste good!

I taste good!

I once had a samgyetang in K-town that was so disappointing it was all I could do not to fling the hot chicken across the room. This one I had at Persimmon was the real deal. I’ll leave it at that. Other highlights were the “side dishes” or banchan- the little delicious side dishes you are served whenever you eat K-food. In Korea it’s free and Koreans really resent paying for them when abroad. However, the group I was with accepted the nominal $4 fee ($2 for refills), especially since the quality was so good. The standout was the pickled chamae. Chamae is a Korean mellon which to me tastes like something between a squash and a mellon and is just “a’ight” in my book.
I'm more delicious when I'm pickled!

I'm more delicious when I'm pickled!

However, pickled it really shines since it has just a touch of sweetness that mingles with vinegar for a sweet & sour yet fresh experience. Yum. I’d never had anything like it in Korea. The soft tofu seafood stew was different than in Korea- it was much milder than it’s red hot overseas cousin. It did not floor me but the tofu was definitely made in-house and it is a nice alternative for those that do not do well with spicy food. The smaller dishes on the menu provide a good way to get to know K-cuisine without making huge commitments. The bosam: steamed pork belly which gets wrapped in blanched cabbage wasn’t too shabby, and the japchae- glass noodles stir fried with vegetables and meat were quite good! But the real highlight were the fried stuffed zucchini blossoms which were divine. The waitress explained that they were stuffed with a mixture of scallops & ricotta cheese, I believe, but at this point I was two bekseju bottles in and would have believed her if she told me it was a mixture of angel farts and cotton candy.
Persimmon is tiny & has one large table where you dine communally so if being close strangers ain’t your favorite thing, perhaps it could get awkward. But have yourself some bekseju and you’ll be feeling no pain in no time! Or even makoli which I was surprised to find that they have AND is served in bowls the way it should be! A nice bonus is that your meal will conclude with a little cup of pink, slightly sweet omija tea which is made from, what else, omija berries. It’s a nice way to round out a meal.
If you or someone you is looking to go beyond Korean barbecue, check this place out!
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13 10 2009
New York Giveth and New York Taketh « ROM (Restaurant of the Month)

[…] York Taketh 13 10 2009 OK, long time no ROM blog. This is due, in part, to the fact that beloved Persimmon restaurant has gone down in flames and it’s got me down. Well, not literal flames but shortly after I […]

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